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Full text of "My country and my people"

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Rites.   To what extent such ceremonial "rites" in the books
were observed in practice it is impossible to ascertain* It is easy to understand this seclusion from the viewpoint of the whole Confucian social philosophy. It stood for a society with emphasis on distinction between superiority and inferiority, It stood for obedience, for recognition of authority in a family as in a state, and for the division of labour between man's duties outside and women's duties in the home. It encouraged the womanly woman, and naturally taught such feminine virtues as quietness, obedience, good manners, personal neatness, industry, ability in cooking and spinning^ respect for the husband's parents, kindness to the husband's brothersa courtesy to the husband's friends, and all those virtues desirable from the male point of view. Nothing was radically wrong in these moral instructions, and with their economic dependence and their love of conventions, women accepted them. Perhaps the women desired to be good, or perhaps they desired to please the men.
Confucianism saw that this sexual differentiation was necessary for social harmony, and perhaps Confucianism was quite near the truth. Then Confucianism also gave the wife an "equal'* position with the husband, somewhat below the husband, but still an equal helpmate, like the two fish in the Taoist symbol of yin and yangt necessarily complementing each other. It also gave the mother an honoured position in the home. In the best spirit of Confucianism, this differentiation was interpreted, not as a subjection but as a harmony of relationships. Women who could rule their husbands knew that dependence on this sexual arrangement was their best and most effective weapon for power, and women who could not were too dull to raise feminist problems.
This was the Confucian attitude toward women and women's position in society before It came under the influence of the later men scholars. It had not yet developed that curiously and perversely selfish aspect characteristic of the later attitudes, but the basic notions of woman's inferiority were there. One flagrant instance was the rule that while the husband's mourning period for the wife was only one year, the wife's mourning period for the husband was three years, and while the normal